Clarification upfront. Knock off is not a derogatory term around these parts. Instead of subpar sometimes you get a “most of” for “much less than” proposition. And that is the case here. Especially when you consider that the original is well beyond my budget.
Introducing (again) the 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1.
Arguably the Mitakon 50mm f/0.95 is a closer match, but there are issues.
Despite creating some of my favorite images…
…I never warmed up to it long term after two attempts. Why?
- A bit heavy and large for a Sony FE lens. This lens carries a fair amount of its weight far forward also which makes carrying it on a neck or shoulder strap a bit awkward.
- While much, much less expensive than the other legendary 50mm f/0.95 it is not cheap for a manual focus lens.
- Despite having all of the focus aids mirrorless affords this lens is not fun to focus due to ergonomics (weight and focus effort).
- Making this an FE mount lens actually limited its usability. More on that below.
As much value that the Mitakon offers the 7Artisans knocks it out of the park at over $400 less for a similar spec.
Would never lay out the cash for a Noctilux so the Mitakon is a more reasonable comparison. Why do I like the 7Artisans more? Well…
- Size and weight. While anything with this much glass will not be light this lens is impressively small for the given spec.
- Build. While solid both Mitakon examples had a bit of wobble somewhere. Both samples here were solid as a rock.
- I prefer an M Mount over the FE mount. Not only does this allow me to use an actual M Mount camera film or digital (mentioned below) but it also allows MF and AF adapter use with the Sony A7 line.
- No AF option. The 7Artisans lens is a perfect match for the TECHART LMEA7. Very fast. Very accurate focusing.
- Faux macro. If you want to get closer just get a helicoid adapter or a TECHART adapter as mentioned above for Sony and you can get much closer to your subject than on any M mount camera. (See samples below.)
- Looks. Subjective for sure, but I really like the look of the 7Artisans lens over the Mitakon. Aesthetically at home on new and old, film or digital, M mount or Sony. (See below.)
Next up, image quality. I love it. Right up my alley. Perfect lenses are boring. This lens behaves when it wants to and its flaws are the most fun type.
- Great colors.
- Really enjoy how it renders black and white.
- I personally love the fall off and bokeh. Very subjective.
- Does stuff like this.
- I enjoy using the flare when I want it.
- But flare is easy to do away with when you do not want it by either adjusting your framing…
- …or by stopping down. This brings me to a favorite perk of this lens for me. Multiple personalities. It goes from a low light flare prone free for all to a sensibly sharp lens by the twist of an aperture dial. As I did in my last post on this lens here are pics where all I changed is the f stop and netted different results. Keep in mind that I was purposely invoking flare below. As stated above flare is easy enough to do away with.
- f/1.1 flare fest
- f/1.4 less of a flare fest
- f/2 flare begone
- Leica M mount. As mentioned earlier the M mount opens up use on Sony w/ close focus adapters as well as on film. Sample shot below with a Bessa R2.
Bessa R2/Silver Lens Sidebar: Sold the silver version of this lens pictured above when I sold the Bessa R2 I specifically bought it for. A great combination, but in the end I enjoyed looking at it more than shooting with it so I sold it to help finance another acquisition, the new precious, I have yet to write about. Waiting for my kid’s marching band season to start so I can use this new kit to amuse myself when football games break out before and after their band performances. Got a taste of the new gear’s potential at a recent JapanFest event, but I am waiting for the original reason I bought it before writing about it and the season starts soon. Black suits the Sony A7III/TECHART combo better so I bought that version instead. Am I admitting that I choose lenses like outfits for my cameras? Yes. Yes, I am.
One more big factor in my enthusiasm.
- Fun. This is just a fun combo to use. Like an f/1.1 point and shoot when assembled. My favorite walkabout combo for sure. Even outpaces the previous favorites, the Leica Q and EOS RP/35mm f/1.8 cameras I had and both also sold to finance the as yet written about precious, in that regard. No small feat. Focusing is so much faster than it has any business being. No more needing the world to stand still while you double check the focus patch on a rangefinder or zoom in to confirm critical focus on a mirrorless EVF. A major RF tool, zone focusing, is not effective at f/1.1 due to the minuscule DOF available. Face and eye detect work perfectly here. I say again, eye detect AF at f/1.1. Can actually shoot from the hip trusting the on-screen focus confirmation. Leaves you with time to compose to your heart’s content.
Now more on the party piece. Autofocus. This is one significant reason I prefer the 7Artisans lens over the Mitakon. Since this is a Leica M mount this allows for AF with the TECHART adapter. You can buy this lens and the TECHART LM-EA7 AF adapter for less than the price of the Mitakon 50mm f/0.95 alone. And the lens and adapter are smaller and lighter than the Mitakon alone.
So what’s up with f/1.1? The gap between f/0.95 of the MItakon and f/1.1 has not been noticeable in my experience. Also is likely the reason the 7Artisans can be smaller, lighter, and significantly less expensive.
So would the actual Noctilux be better? Yes. Of course it would be. That lens is amazing. But $11,000 better? In my universe? No. A current digital Leica with a Noctilux combined would cost more than I typically spend on a car (Exhibit A: Dadmobile 5000 daily driver). In fact price aside there is another reason to choose the 7Artisans.
The Noctilux is considerably larger (ø: 73.0 x L: 75.1 mm vs ø: 60.0 x L: 49.0 mm) and heavier (700g vs 400g). Would not trust the LM-EA7 with this additional size and weight and I am fairly certain it would surpass the adapters maximum lens weight (Nope. Googled it and just makes it under the 800g limit.) . With a fixed adapter it would still be a size mismatch for the Sony A7. Would rather not use a lens that size on the Bessa R2 or Leica M3 I used to own or my current film CL.
Even with unlimited disposable income, I do not know if I would get the Noctilux. I am a respecter of good enough. And the 7Artisans is much more than good enough in my humble opinion.